Press release 30/01/19
Consumer campaigners call for immediate changes
The consumer ombudsman system urgently needs changing. That’s the conclusion of a new report launched today by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Consumer Protection.
MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) funded an APPG Inquiry and the report which builds on much research into the Alternative Dispute Resolution sector. It makes several recommendations previously called for by MSE, Citizens Advice Bureau and consumer campaigners Marcus Williamson of CEOemail.com and Helen Dewdney.
The main recommendations are:
- A single portal for all consumer complaints – This would allow consumers to easily find the relevant ombudsman for any complaint. It was already recognised as needed in the November 2014 document “Government response to the consultation on implementing the Alternative Dispute Resolution Directive and the Online Dispute Resolution Regulation” and was also called for in the Ombudsman Omnishambles report by Marcus Williamson and Helen Dewdney in June 2016.
- A “fit and proper person” test for ombudsmen prior to their appointment. This would cover financial and criminal (DBS) background checks and was first identified by Dewdney and Williamson in 2016.
- Mandatory membership of an ombudsman scheme for all ADR bodies – This was first called for in the 2016 Ombudsman Omnishambles report by Dewdney and Williamson. Mandatory membership was also recommended by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau report in its April 2017 report Confusion, gaps, and overlaps.
Donal Galligan the Director of the Ombudsman Association said “The Ombudsman Association welcomes that the APPG’s report supports our long-held position that people should have access to an ombudsman in all areas of consumer goods and services. The APPG’s conclusion that there should be mandatory membership of an ombudsman scheme echoes all the recent research and reports in this area, and reflects government policy in a number of sectors. It is time for the Government to take action.”
The latest APPG report calls for a reform of the whole sector, referring the matter to the Law Commission, aiming to use the best of the existing system across all sectors, in a major overhaul.
Consumer Champions Dewdney and Williamson have been monitoring the ADR sector since the EU ADR Directive came into force on 1 October 2015. Williamson says “The lack of oversight of ombudsmen remains a significant concern. Now, more than ever, the Government must establish an ‘ombudsman of ombudsmen’, to oversee the sector.”
I spoke at the Westminster Business Forum seminar in November 2018, where I called for changes in the oversight of the entire ADR sector.
The whole system is a consumer disaster in the making. I welcome the APPG raising some of the issues again. Hopefully now all the issues and recommendations regarding approval and oversight of ADR bodies that have been raised previously will be appropriately addressed. These include oversight bodies undertaking due diligence in approving providers and scrutinising their services far more closely.
Further reading on the ADR landscape
More Ombudsman Omnishambles The UK ADR Landscape 20 months on
Landing in court with Ryanair (what you need to know about airlines and ADR too!) the issues regarding ADR in the airline sector.
5 myths about Ombudsman providers busted commonly held beliefs about what what an ombudsman does.